AZ State Criterium Championship- Day 1

The age-based crit championship gave us a splendid opportunity to bring awareness to the Foundation. Team Winded and Bicycle Haus were the title sponsors, and our riders and team parents volunteered in different services. That’s just the first aspect of teamwork and we showed on Saturday.

The ladies of Team Winded began our day. Catherine and Louisa finished 2nd and 3rd in the Masters 45-49 category. Catherine had done her best to attack the field, but she was marked closely. Fortunately, both women stayed upright when one of the other riders crashed on the last lap.

Madi, Jacey, Hailey, and Mary lined up to race what would prove to be one of the larger and more exciting junior womens race in a while. Mary was intuitive enough to follow an immediate attack by Andrea Arriaga (Strada). Chloe Welch and Maya collier (El Grupo) caught up to them, as did young Hailey Larson. I thought it was a breakthrough ride for Hailey, who matched pace with the big guns until her asthma kicked in. 904896_369438209841274_1245837367_oShe slipped off the back of the group and was caught by Jacey, who had been building up speed since  missing the early selection. Jacey and Hailey worked with two El Grupo girls and finished strong. Jacey was 2nd in the 17-18s, and Hailey was 3rd in the 15-16s. Madi rode by in by herself, but she never quit. Mary stayed in the 4 woman lead group. She raced smart, not taking too many pulls and forcing the very strong Chloe Welch to do most of the work. Mary seemed to be at her limit when Arriaga attacked again. However, Keating kept digging and caught back on. May was 4th overall and the 17-18 state champion! I’m excited to see the girls continue with the sport, building off this season. Junior women’s cycling has experienced a revival in Arizona, thanks to the efforts of teams like El Grupo, Strada, and Team Winded.

904114_369438553174573_1187664227_o

Our junior boys took to the course in one of the more strategic junior races in Arizona history. The 15-16 and 17-18 categories combined to make a 32 rider field: 9 from El Grupo, 4 from Strada, 7 from Landis, and 9 from Winded. The first few laps of the race revealed a power struggle between El Grupo, which seemed bent on a breakaway, and Landis, which seemed to want a sprint. Christian Santa-Cruz (El Grupo) attacked multiple times and was chased down by Landis multiple times. We were content to take a backseat and save our matches. 906536_369438329841262_1795760427_oKenny Polley (Landis), the hands-down favorite, made a threatening attack, but Dominic marked him closely. That was a desperate moment, but Dominic’s vigilance probably saved us a lot of chasing. Scotty played the next chess piece. He attacked with Santa-Cruz and forced Landis and Strada to chase. Our team did a phenomenal job of occupying the front when that happened. With two laps to go, Kenny and Taylor Skinner blasted out of the pack. Austin Crosby was the first to react, but no one besides Taylor could match Polley’s acceleration. Taylor dropped back to the decimated pack, as Polley continued on alone. The peloton was strung out in a chopped up, frenzied line, and Polley was gaining ground. He won solo, followed by Nick Harris (El Grupo) and Lance Eddis-Finbow (Landis). Clayton and Dominic were our top finishers in 4th and 5th, good enough for 2nd and 3rd in the 15-16 category! Our guys raced really well, and I was very proud of their tactics. Ultimately, the race came down to following Kenny’s wheel. Maybe we could have been in a better position to follow, but hindsight is 20-20. Putting two guys on the podium is a great success.

Next up was the inaugural U23 race. Winded had 5 riders in a field of 7. Jake, Thomas, Tyler, John, and Ryan G were up against Jason Hardman (Body by Vi p/b VeloVie) and Joseph Lupien (La Grange). Joseph raced with us last year, so we knew just how strong and difficult to drop he was. It was going to take teamwork and good timing to beat him. Thomas was the designated wheelsucker, and he did his job perfectly. Joseph did not go anywhere without Thomas following. The rest of our riders were attackers. Early attacks by John and Ryan dropped Hardman, in addition to Jake and Tyler. Joseph did not look to be in difficulty, as he followed the attacks with little delay. Either we would break him somehow, or he would challenge to win the sprint. Halfway through the race, we got the gap we needed. Ryan attacked with John, and Joseph hesitated for a moment. The race was over.

903386_369438609841234_720991920_o If Joseph were able to close the gap, Thomas would be ready to counterattack. John and Ryan team time trialed to the finish, executing a textbook victory salute. Thomas and Joseph slowed significantly, weaving across the road at slow speeds. This allowed Jake and Jason Hardman to catch them. Jake led Thomas out on the last lap, and Thomas was able to fend off Joseph in the sprint. 1-2-3 for Winded! Respect goes out to Joseph and Jason for entering the race in spite of being vastly outnumbered.

892167_369438716507890_514674103_o

John, Scotty, Austin, and Jake raced a brutal Cat 1/2/3 Expo race. A first lap breakaway shattered the field and stayed away. Our guys were in the second chase group, and they never quit. Austin finished 13th. It was a great display of suffering by the boys.
906433_369439023174526_1220230995_o
The Cat 4/5 Expo race capped off the day. Clayton, Thomas, Braden, and Kaden fought for the win. A dangerous move with Walter Lopez and Max Capener threatened the pack, but it was caught with three laps to go. With two laps to go, Jason Hardman made a vicious made a hard attack, which Thomas followed. They reached the bell lap about a five second lead. Braden could be seen on the front end of the pack, slowing things down. The breakaway stayed away. A group of five (containing Clayton) bridged up with two corners to go, but the race was Thomas’ to lose. He did not disappoint. He took the win by over a bike length.

It was a great day for the team. We were encouraged to see both the physical and mental growth of our riders. There are still multiple important races on our spring calendar, most notably Sea Otter and Gila. To AZ riders, however, we’ll see you at the Category-based AZ State Crit Champs later this month!

(p.s.)

A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who volunteered at the race. Especially Jay and Tisha, who are always at the epicenter of the hard work.